London: Senior scientists in the UK have accused researchers in China of "appalling irresponsibility" for deliberately creating new strains of influenza virus in a veterinary laboratory.
The scientists warned there is a danger that the new viral strains created by mixing bird-flu virus with human influenza could escape from the laboratory to cause a global pandemic killing millions of people, reports The Independent.
Lord May of Oxford, a former government chief scientist and past president of the Royal Society, said the Chinese are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever. He said the Chinese researchers are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses.
The controversial study into viral mixing was carried out by a team led by Professor Hualan Chen, director of China`s National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute .
Professor Chen and her colleagues deliberately mixed the H5N1 bird-flu virus, which is highly lethal but not easily transmitted between people, with a 2009 strain of H1N1 flu virus, which is very infectious to humans.
The researchers were trying to emulate what happens in nature when animals such as pigs are co-infected with two different strains of virus, Professor Chen said.
The study, which was carried out in a laboratory with the second highest security level to prevent accidental escape, resulted in 127 different viral hybrids between H5N1 and H1N1, five of which were able to pass by airborne transmission between laboratory guinea pigs.
Professor Simon Wain-Hobson, an eminent virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said it is very likely that some or all of these hybrids could pass easily between humans and possess some or all of the highly lethal characteristics of H5N1 bird-flu.
An increasing number of scientists outside the influenza field have expressed concern over attempts to deliberately increase the human transmissibility of the H5N1 bird-flu virus. This is done by mutating the virus so that it can pass by airborne droplets between laboratory ferrets, the standard "animal model" of human influenza.